Special Dragon threatens to upstage Derby heavyweights
The promise of a more sensible speed in today's Victoria Racing Club Trophy (1,800m) at Sha Tin gives lightly weighted stayer Special Dragon the chance to stage an upset.
Punters are sure to rally to the Hong Kong Derby form of Mr Medici (Eric Saint-Martin) and Roma Pegasus (Brett Prebble) after Derby fourth and fifth, More Bountiful and Unique Jewellery, did well in the Chairman's Trophy last week.
But, unlike those horses, the Derby third and sixth this time return to handicap class, with the result that they will be giving plenty of weight away to some useful rivals.
The Tony Cruz-trained Special Dragon (Alex Lai Hoi-wing) is one of them - only lightly raced and bred on slow-maturing lines that suggest he can continue to improve, despite being a five-year-old already.
Already the winner of two of six at the Sha Tin 1,800m, he is the ideal type for these races, bowling along on the speed - he doesn't accelerate but he does stay on strongly.
And there is a formline in his most recent outing to give plenty of hope that he is far from out of his depth here.
In the race won by Collection on March 7, Special Dragon was the best backed runner to beat the subsequent Derby winner, firming into a tick under 4-1 in a race not unlike today's, where he was expected to roll forward with a light weight.
Unfortunately for his backers, things turned out slightly differently, with serious competition for the early lead sending the front-runners through quick early sections.
That made it most unlikely any of them would remain competitive once heads were turned for home, and so it turned out, with the winner and Mr Medici coming from well back in the field to fill the quinella.
Mr Medici was raised significantly in the handicap for his Derby placing, with the result that he meets Special Dragon five pounds worse, despite Lai, with only a two-pound claim, replacing Matthew Chadwick on Special Dragon.
Today's tempo promises to be kinder to the on-pace runners, too, with Californiamountain showing last start that he has no aversion to taking a sit, which may leave only Lu Yue and Special Dragon to concern themselves with the front and set a steady rather than breakneck speed.
There look to be many dangers in a wide open race, but punters looking for further affirmation of the Derby form might get better value with Galaxy Treasure (Jeff Lloyd).
While all eyes were on the winner circling the field in the Derby, it was Galaxy Treasure that did the bullocking for him, pulling his way around the field with no cover while giving Collection a trail.
He had a tougher run in the Derby than Mr Medici for instance, and meets him eight pounds better for the two lengths he finished behind him.
Alex Lai and Tony Cruz have combined 20 times for an impressive winning strike rate of:15%